Alcohol Consumption in Europe

Recently we looked at the favourite alcoholic drink of each European country. This time we’re going to take a more detailed look at alcohol consumption in Europe.


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Detailed map of the alcohol consumption in Europe.

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A lot of people were quite surprised at the results of the map about each European country’s favourite alcoholic drink. Inspired by that map, I decided to make a more detailed map about alcohol consumption in Europe. This map should clarify a lot of those surprises. (Note: all consumption on this map and in this article is measured in litres of pure alcohol per adult per year).

The three countries that surprised people the most, were Russia, Spain and the UK. The UK with its pub culture is perceived as a beer drinking country, yet wine is their most consumed drink. As we can see on this map, that difference is very small. The same goes for Russia, famous for its vodka. Beer is only slightly consumed more than spirits. Spain is a bit of a different case. While most people expect wine to be their most consumed drink, as it is a Southern European country and big wine producer, wine is not even the second most consumed drink. Spaniards consume far more beer than wine. Even spirits are consumed more than wine.

Another country that surprised a lot of people was Serbia. According to the WHO data, wine is the most consumed alcoholic drink. But many people expected Rakija, a spirit, to be the most consumed drink. Could it be that Rakija is not consumed as much as people think? A possible explanation is the fact that a lot of Rakija in Serbia is home-made. Because of that, there is a chance it doesn’t show up in the WHO statistics.

Now, who are the biggest drinkers in Europe? There are 3 countries that clearly consume more alcohol than the rest of Europe: Moldova (15.2 litres), Lithuania (15 litres) and the Czech Republic (14.4 litres). Apart from being the biggest consumers of alcohol in total, Moldovans are also the biggest consumers of wine in Europe. With an annual consumption of 8.6 litres of wine (in pure litres of alcohol), Moldova is far ahead of Portugal (7.6 litres) and France (7.4 litres).

Lithuanians have a strong preference for both beer and spirits. However, they don’t rank 1st in the consumption of any of these. They do rank second in spirits consumption, just behind Estonia. For beer, it might come as no surprise that the Czech Republic is the undisputed number one. Germany and Romania rank second in beer consumption.

I do have to mention Hungary, as they have the most evenly balanced alcohol consumption of any country in Europe. All three types of alcohol are very close to each other. Beer (4 litres) is the most consumed alcoholic drink by a slight margin. Spirits and wine follow closely, both with a consumption of 3.7 litres.

The data from this map comes from the WHO. The consumption of the alcoholic drinks, is measured in litres of pure alcohol consumed per adult per year. You’re probably wondering whether it wouldn’t be more accurate to measure it by the total consumed litres per adult per year? For those of you that drink alcohol, you will probably know, that as the alcohol percentage of a drink increases, you drink less of that drink in total. E.g., one can easily drink more than 1 or even 2 litres of beer in an evening, without seriously putting one’s life at risk. That’s of course a totally different story with a drink like vodka, which has a very high percentage of alcohol. Using this measure, will give you a much more accurate perspective on which alcoholic drink is more popular.

It’s also good to note what kind of drinks are categorized as ‘other’. Other beverages are, for example, fortified wines, rice wine, palm wine or other fermented beverages made of banana, sorghum, millet or maize.

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